Ireland in Psychoanalysis 2: Irish Shame

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
University at Buffalo
contact email: 

Ireland in Psychoanalysis 2: Irish Shame Venue: University at BuffaloDates: 28-29th September Call for Papers
If we can infer anything from the myth of our expulsion from Paradise, it is that we humans are, or ought to be, ashamed of ourselves. Awareness of shame seems inherent to our social existence, and forms one intractable legacy of our self-awareness as a species. As self-conscious animals, we see ourselves in ways most animals do not, and we do not like all that we see. 

In Ireland, shame has haunted us for at least as long as the concept of Irishness itself. Indeed, in the post-Catholic era, shame feels almost ubiquitous: an ineluctable modality of Irish life. But Irish shame can hardly be understood outside of the colonial context. For Andrew Marvell, at least, shame was the appropriate response of the Irish to their military humiliation by Oliver Cromwell, and that view was (inevitably?) internalized by the Irish themselves. Irish shame has also been institutionalized: first, in the Irish family, and then in the various societies sustained by it. And the Roman Catholic Church has played an instrumental role in generalizing the experience of shame across all aspects of Irish life, personal and professional. Along the way, sexuality and shame have been rendered practically synonymous. “I am ashamed and therefore I am (a good Catholic)”. And it may be that Irish shame is intimately linked to the predicament of sexual desire. 

How might the resources of psychoanalysis be mobilized to address the issue of Irish shame? Might they be used to confront the shame of colonial domination, as well as the internalization of that shame and its displacement onto other vulnerable groups, e.g. women and children, Irish Travellers, immigrants, asylum seekers? When we consider the power of the Church in Irish gender and sexual politics, can feminist and/or queer psychoanalytic theory clarify how shame operated to underpin the state-sanctioned Catholic architecture of containment that has governed modern Irish life? Or, confronting the reality of ‘endemic’ abuse in those institutions, might Melanie Klein’s concept of ‘reparation’ help frame the necessary mechanisms of redress? How might the resources of psychoanalysis be deployed, in turn, to address Ireland’s shame in the post-Catholic moment? Might we link the mechanisms of austerity to those of original sin and penance? Finally, what have Ireland’s cultural practitioners—its writers and artists—had to say about Irish shame? And how might psychoanalysis interpret such efforts?These questions are the subject of a conference to be held in Buffalo. It will consist in plenary sessions, and there will be funds for graduate assistance (indicate interest at time of proposal). Proposals (300 words) by May 31th to: jvalente@buffalo.edu